Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Newborns like to copy you – if you stick out your tongue at them, they might stick their tongue out too. Toddlers like it when you copy them – and it helps them develop socially according to a new study published in Child Development.
What Did The Study Do? 18-month-olds were brought (with a parent) into a playroom / laboratory. An experimenter played with the toddler as they moved about the room (there were interesting things for them to play with, climb on, etc). Half of the toddlers were then “mimicked” in a “friendly” way – basically whatever the toddler did, the experimenter did. The experimenter left the room briefly and returned. Then the experimenter did something that could require help – dropping sticks or having difficulty opening a cabinet.
What Was The Effect of Being Mimicked? The toddlers who were imitated were significantly more likely to help the experimenter than those who were not copied. Mimicked toddlers were also more likely to help another experimenter (not the one who mimicked them) when they needed help.
What Does All This Mean? According to the researchers, it’s clear that mimicry sends a prosocial message to toddlers – or put another way, it’s a fundamental way to promote social connection and bonding. Now of course you are not going to spend your day copying your toddler. But when you on the floor playing with your toddler, go ahead and mimic them. They’ll not only like it – it will help develop their prosocial capacities and reinforce their instinct to help others in need. And of course this is just a specific example of a more general principle – promoting reciprocity between you and your toddler. Nothing is more reinforcing to a laughing toddler than to get that laugh back.Add a Comment